Feb 25, 2015

Small moment, big lift

Did you know that 20th March is the annual International Day of Happiness? The United Nations declared it in 2012, but I must admit I had no idea. The initiative to declare a day of happiness came from Bhutan, a country whose citizens are considered to be some of the happiest people in the world. It’s only three weeks away so I thought I’d prepare for the day by celebrating some of the very small moments of happiness that can get lost as life whizzes by.

I’m not talking about the big things like, say, the birth of a new grandson (which happened a few weeks ago, by the way), but sometimes you can be having an off day, or a mediocre one, and then something happens - it’s very small, but it gets right inside your senses and lifts your spirits. You close your eyes, sink into the sensation, sigh...and return to the real world. It was a brief but heady moment of joy.

Happiness triggers, I guess we could call these moments. These are some examples from my life in recent days:

1) After unloading the weekly shop and putting it away – something that always feels like such a chore – I opened a new pack of ground coffee. Ahhh, the aroma. Eyes closed, inhaling deeply, I was transported to a euphoric place. It can do it to me every time (and I’m glad I didn’t buy that pod machine after all).

2) Having kept an appointment which involved a long drive, I learned that I’d been told the wrong day. Grumpy, I returned to the car to be met by the sound of kookaburras laughing in the trees. It’s a sound that always makes me feel joyful and I immediately forgot to be annoyed at the waste of time.

3) That moment when squeaky clean skin meets squeaky clean sheets makes me sigh with utter contentment every single time.

4) Taking a short cut home I drove along the sea shore for a short distance, happened to glance out to the ocean and saw yachts racing. It was such a glorious sight I forgot the problem that had filled my head until that moment.

5) I’m sure many people can relate to this one...it was the moment when my new grandson opened his eyes and looked at me for the first time. There seemed to be such a connection in that brief meeting of gazes, and I was immediately hooked.

Do you have certain tiny triggers that can make you happy every single time, even if it is only briefly and no matter how bad things get around you?

Feb 23, 2015

Love A Rainy Night

So....its been a little wet around these parts lately.

Thanks to this -

Tropical Cyclone Marcia
quite a few LoveCats are looking a little like this -

We were lucky where I live, a lot of rain but well away from the destructive effects of the cyclone. 
 Here are a couple of shots of how my back yard went from a trickling creek to a lake in a few hours. If you click on the pics you'll get a larger view!

The stream just starting to form at the back of our place
The stream swells into a lake engulfing the bottom half of our yard

Girl child taking the dog down for a frolick in the water.
 Both my and my hubby's families and my best friend live further north, however, and Marcia pretty much landed on their heads. Everyone is safe and well but the clean up will take a while. No power for at least a week. Water and sewage only coming back online now. My thoughts are with everyone in central Queensland as the mop up continues.

But, destructive weather patterns aside, there's nothing I love more than a rainy night.

Or day. Particularly if its a weekend and you can just lie in bed with a book and read all day :-) May I perhaps, suggest these two? :-)


 Ask Me Nicely (Sal's story) is out next Monday. But if you'd like a little glimpse of Sal prior to reading it, then grab a copy of No More Mr Nice Guy too!                           

How do you pass a rainy day/night?

Feb 22, 2015

Sunday Smooch with Yvonne Lindsay

Welcome to another LoveCats DownUnder Sunday Smooch!

Today we have a smooch from  Yvonne Lindsay but first 

... the  winner of last week's Sunday Smooch Giveaway is Laura Russell!

Can you please contact Michelle via michelle (a) michelle-douglas (dot) com to receive your prize!

And now for today's Sunday Smooch from The Wedding Bargain (book 6 in the Master Vintners series) which is being released through Harlequin Desire on 1 March 2015.

A runaway bride finds herself rescued, seduced—and pregnant!—in this tale from USA TODAY bestseller Yvonne Lindsay.

Who would dare object when Shanal Peat is about to say I do in a church full of wedding guests? The bride herself, that’s who. Shanal just can’t go through with the bargain she’s made. She’ll have to save her destitute parents without an arranged marriage.

Australian billionaire Raif Masters delights in rescuing the runaway bride from his nemesis. But when hiding out on a riverboat leads to passion—and when passion leads to pregnancy—Raif must prove he’s in it for love, not vengeance.

[Scene set-up: After rescuing her from her wedding, Raif has taken Shanal on a river boat up the Murray River to give her time to come to terms with her decision to run away from her fiance. Raif's fought a crush on this 'older woman' ever since he was in his mid teens and he's trying to do the right thing by her now--it's what his absent cousin would expect. But a playful challenge over who is going to make lunch becomes a whole lot more serious when it seems Shanal has been fighting her own attraction to Raif and--after all these years--she's ready to act on it.]

   Shanal had one foot on the gangplank to the boat, then another, and was about to turn and relish her success when a pair of strong arms wrapped around her and lifted her clean off her feet. She squealed again, this time in surprise, as Raif spun her a full 180 degrees.
   “I win!” he crowed as he set foot on the deck and slowly lowered her down, laughing in the face of her frustration.
   “And you say I cheated?” Shanal said through gasps of air, turning to him in disgust.
   “Hey, you forget. I’ve seen how you can run,” he teased, obviously alluding to her bolt from the church yesterday. “I had to use every advantage I had. Besides, I like to win.”
   “That’s not fair,” she protested. Was it only a day ago? It felt like forever. Or did she just wish it was?
   “All’s fair in love and war.” He smiled back cheekily.
   “You may live to regret that statement,” she warned. “Remember, I can’t cook.”
   Raif shrugged. “I also like to live dangerously, don’t you?”
   She looked at him and felt a tug that pulled from her core. It had nothing to do with her labored breathing and everything to do with the fact that he still had her in the circle of his arms. Her heart was already pumping hard, her senses heightened, and all she could think of was how snugly she fit against him, how close his lips were to hers. How, if she just flexed her hips a little, she’d be nestled in the cradle of his pelvis.
   But did she dare?
   She did.
   Shanal lifted her hands to his head and tugged it down toward her. “I haven’t had much cause to live dangerously so far, but I’m willing to give it a try.”
   And then she kissed him.
   She felt the shock roll through his body as her lips touched his. He was unresponsive for a second, then two. She began to wonder if she’d been foolish to do this, to act on the impulse that had overridden her usually careful and considered way of approaching things.
   But then his lips began to move over hers, and his arms tightened, pulling her even closer against his body, against his solid strength. Her fingers furrowed through his short dark hair, holding him in place. Not wanting to let him go for a second, because if she did, she’d have to face the questions that would no doubt be in his eyes. Questions she didn’t know the answer to herself.
   All she knew was that she suddenly realized just how deeply she longed for this. For this man, for his kiss. She slid her tongue softly along his lower lip, felt the shudder that racked his body, felt him harden against her.
   This was how it was meant to be between a man and a woman. Need, desire, want. Not a cold clinical agreement. Not the feeling of being a possession, to be shaped and molded to someone else’s taste. Just the need to possess and be possessed in return. She moaned as Raif’s tongue touched hers, as a flame of heat speared through her body. She pressed against him, aching for him to fill that emptiness that echoed inside her. Desperate for him to ease the pounding demand that throbbed through her veins.
   His hands slid under the sweater she was wearing, his sweater, and the heat of his touch burned through the thin T-shirt that acted as a barrier between his skin and hers. She wanted more. She wanted Raif. Her fingers clenched in his hair and she kissed him more fiercely, her tongue now dueling with his. Advance, retreat, advance again. The taste of him was intoxicating, another sensation to fill her mind and overwhelm her senses.
   She felt her nipples tighten into aching buds, and she pressed against him, the movement sending tiny shafts of pleasure to rocket through her body. She’d never felt anything quite like this before. This level of total abandonment, this depth of need.
   The sound of the ferry horn echoed across the water—a stark and sudden reminder of where they were, of what they were doing. Shanal let her hands drop to Raif’s shoulders as she pulled back. Her entire body thrummed with energy and anticipation, but as she came back to awareness of her surroundings once more, the strength leached from her body, leaving her feeling empty, limp.
   “I—” she started.
   Raif pressed a short and all too sweet kiss to her lips. “Don’t say a word. It’s okay. To the winner, the spoils, right?”

Do you remember your first kiss with your significant other? Or do you have a favourite memory from a wedding (either yours or someone else's?) Share it with us here on the blog and one comment will be drawn as a winner of a signed copy of THE WEDDING BARGAIN.

Come back next Sunday, when the winner of today's giveaway will be announced and a smooch from the lovely Sue Mackay will be posted!

Feb 20, 2015

Wedding fever...

Reading: A pile of wonderful RITA contest books
Watching: The Walking Dead
Listening to: The Black Keys
Making Me Smile: Texts from my son who has just started uni- a 2 hour flight away :-(

I'm just starting out on a new project and I'm immersing myself in research which has got me all soppy and sappy. Most of the romances I read all end with a lifelong promise but a lot of them don't show the actual weddings. The main character in my story is  a wedding planner and it's been so-o-o-o long since my own wedding or since I even went to a wedding that I'm overdosing on wedding movies or anything remotely wedding related. It's great fun!

I've been googling wedding sites, buying wedding magazines (try explaining that to your hubby of 20 odd years!) and generally stalking anyone who even mentions the word wedding.

I've just found a UK Tv programme called The Proposers, which you all have probably known about for years, but for some reason I've only come across recently. It's about a proposal service in London that helps proposers plan a fitting proposal... a really neat idea for anyone who is too nervous to stage manage the whole thing on their own!

Then there are the wedding movies...Oh, my gosh...such fun! Things rarely turn out how we expect! I love this scene from Muriel's Wedding....

And this from Love Actually... (Go Rick Grimes!! Walking Dead fans will understand)

There are so so many more I'd love to share with you, but don't have enough space here.

I'm actually going to a wedding in April, for the first time in about 13 years, so I'm hugely looking forward to being a part of that! Seems like love is all around at the moment! And I love any opportunity to buy a new dress!

What about you- do you love a good wedding? Can you recommend any good wedding movies?

Feb 18, 2015

Is there such a thing as too much bling?

I'm recently returned from a fact finding mission in Europe. I went to meet my editor in London and also to check out a few places as research for some books I plan to write. As you'd imagine, I discovered lots of interesting things. Some of those will find there way into future stories.
One of the most interesting to me, a woman who works from home in surroundings that are far from glittery, was the amount of bling I encountered. Take this for instance, a mirror polished ceiling and wall complete with tortoiseshell style finish superimposed with glittery gems and scroll work. In a palace? I hear you ask. Or a castle? Or perhaps a posh hotel? Think again, this was in the ladies room of a London café. Not convinced? Below is a photo of the polished, crystal studded wall of one of the cubicles. Rather like a dewy spider's web, isn't it?
And I've never seen anything quite like this. Yes, the strings of crystals go right up to the ceiling!
Of course the entry was pretty spectacular too.
I did wonder if maybe the bling thing was something to do with being in trendy London. Then I went to Venice. It's a whole different style of bling there. How about these bejewelled shoes, for loafing around in?
Or, for the bling addict who has everything, a golden, jewelled bottom?
Truly, this trip opened my eyes to the possibilities of glitter.
The question now is - is it possible to have too much bling? What do you think? Are you a bling girl? Or do you prefer refined, understated elegance? Or are you the comfy, cosy sort? What's the blingiest thing you own?
By the way, a quick shout out for my current Desert Vows duet. THE SULTAN'S HAREM BRIDE is out now and THE SHEIKH'S PRINCESS BRIDE is out in April (or late March). Between them, Tariq and Asim have treasuries full of glittery goodness. But I'm sure if you asked them, each would state without hesitation that their most precious treasure was the woman they love. Aww! It's true too. If you don't believe me, check out the stories - I'm sure you'll be convinced.

Feb 16, 2015

Stefanie London's Tea Obsession

I’ve always been a fan of those ‘what would you take to a desert island’ games, I think it’s funny to see what people are attached to. I would always take tea and coffee (and books, obvs). Yes, I know desert islands are hot and that tea and coffee kind of perform the same function. But I love them and wouldn’t be without either one even on a forty degree (or 104 for our American friends) day.

Today’s post will be about my love for tea and I’ll share a few of my favourites with you.

Tea Essentials

Tea tastes so much better out of a nice tea cup, trust me! You’ll see my gorgeous Royal Albert mint green tea cup in a few pics here which was a gift for my 30th birthday from my lovely husband (who knows my tastes very well).

You’ll also need a tea pot or at least a strainer (if you plan on using loose leaf tea). I prefer a pot because I can make a batch of tea big enough for 4-5 cups instead of having to re-steep it with each cup.

Then all you need is to pick up some tea and you’re away!

My Favourite Teas

In Australia is was a huge fan of Tea2, they have a great range and are not crazily priced (IMHO, of course). They also have stores in NZ, UK and one in New York plus they ship internationally. From their range I love the:

Melbourne Breakfast (Black tea, full-bodied and smooth, a hint of briskness cleans up a sweet vanilla finish.) This tea has a great vanilla scent and just a hint of sweetness. It’s a good one if you fancy something sweet but are trying to stay off sugary treats.

Japanese GMC Sencha (Green tea, with savoury rice that adds a roasted depth to the fresh, grassy taste of Sencha.) This green tea has a wonderful roasted, almost nutty scent. It’s not for everyone, but if you find regular green tea a little bland, try this!

French earl Grey (Black tea, a medium-bodied black tea base with pretty petals and slivers of fruit that play with classic bergamot in an inspiring, bold and refined infusion.) Many brands to a French Earl Grey, not just Tea2. This tea has a wonderful smell, it’s so comforting and the taste is really clean and delicious.

Since arriving in Canada, David’s Tea has become my go-to. They do fantastic sampler packs with each season (see the picture of the gorgeous Valentine’s Day set I got, so pretty!) and they have a wonderful variety of teas.

Cinnamon Roobis Chai – (caffeine free, organic roobis with apple and cinnamon.) I love chai tea right before bed time, but traditionally chai is made with black tea which has caffeine. This version is super delicious and won’t keep me awake at night. I make it strong and add frothed milk.

Midsummer Night’s Dream – (Mint tea with sweet apples, cool spearmint, tart gooseberries, orange oil, and petals of marigold and rose.) This tastes and smells amazing! It’s very sweet and fruity, has no caffeiene and is a perfect cure for a sweet-tooth craving.

There are a lot more teas in my cupboard right now, but these are my favourites. Are you a tea lover? What are your favourite types of tea to drink?

Feb 15, 2015

Sunday Smooch with Michelle Douglas

Welcome to another LoveCats DownUnder Sunday Smooch!

Today we have a smooch from  Michelle Douglas but first 

... the  winner of last week's Sunday Smooch Giveaway is Mary Preston!

Can you please contact Stefanie (at) stefanie-london (dot) com to receive your copy of The Rules According to Gracie.

And now for today's Sunday Smooch from The Cattleman's Ready-Made Family

Three brave women, three strong men and one town on the brink...

The Cattleman's Ready-Made Family

Tess Laing has suffered much heartbreak and moving to Bellaroo Creek with her orphaned niece and nephew is the start of a new life. Meeting tall, dark and handsome Cameron Manning starts an unexpected flutter in her heart.

Cam is intrigued by Tess and quickly becomes entangled with them as little Ty gets a clear case of hero worship! they're the family he's always dreamed of--until a betrayal wipes his hopes away.

[Scene set-up: Cam and Tess are neighbours and while they’re attracted to each other, they’re convinced they’re on different paths. Tess has thrown Cam a mini-surprise party, which has thrown him for a bit of a loop. When everyone has gone they have a bit of a tiff...and then start laughing at their absurdity. But it makes the barriers between them fall...]

Cameron pulled her right into his arms and kissed her.

Raw, burning need blazed a path of fire through the very centre of his being and shot out in every direction. He’d ached to kiss this woman ever since he’d clapped eyes on her. But he’d burned harder and fiercer with that need since the first kiss they’d shared. And he was tired of fighting it.

He revelled in the sweet softness of Tess’s lips and the way they opened up at his demand—so sweet and giving as if she sensed his hunger and wanted to assuage it. So unselfish.

The realisation made him slow the kiss down, gentle it until she could catch up with him. Loosening his hold on her nape, he slid his hand through the dark cap of her hair and caressed the skin behind her ear in a slow circular motion, and then followed with his mouth. A shudder rippled through her, increasing his hunger, but he refused to speed up to meet that demand.

He wanted Tess with him. All the way. He wanted her smiling and satisfied...sated and delighted. He nearly lost the battle when her grip tightened on his arms and she moved in closer to press all her softness against him.

He tugged gently on her ear lobe. She gasped and arched into him. He grinned a lazy grin and did it again. She smelled of jellybeans and cake. Breathing her in was a treat in itself. The grin disappeared when she shifted restlessly against him, one of her hands plunging into his hair, her other arm winding around his neck.

He lost all sense of himself then, all sense of time. His mouth found hers and he fell into her, losing himself in the experience of kissing her, touching her, and filling himself up with her essence like a man gorging on some vital nutrient he’d been lacking. The hunger built until kissing and touching was no longer enough. He needed—?

A groan broke from him when she tore her lips from his and wrenched herself out of his arms. She stumbled to a sofa on the other side of the room. Seizing a cushion, she hugged it to her stomach.

His chest rose and fell as if he’d spent the last hour roping yearlings. He wanted to stride over to where she sat, haul her back into his arms and propel this encounter through to its natural conclusion. He almost did, but common sense reasserted itself. Ty and Krissie were somewhere around. This was not the ideal time for making love to Tess. He bit back an oath. ‘I’m sorry. The timing on that could’ve been better.’

She didn’t say anything. He wanted her to look at him, but she didn’t do that either.

He dragged in a breath, adjusted his stance and tried to quieten the stampeding of his blood. ‘Would you like to have dinner with me tonight? Jenny would love to babysit the kids and—’


He blinked.

She walked across and poked him in the chest. ‘Do you want me to fall in love with you so you can then break my heart? Will that mend your wounded ego and make you feel powerful and manly again? Will that show Lance that you’re over what he did to you?’

Tess ups sticks from the city and starts a new life in the country. What would you choose -- a tree-change (like Tess) or would you head to the coast for a sea-change? Maybe you even have a particular place in mind?

Come back next Sunday, when the winner of today's giveaway will be announced and a smooch from Yvonne Lindsay will be posted!

Smooch Graphic by WebWeaver